Granny woke Caelyn the next morning before the sun had risen. Caelyn dressed, gathered her things, and went outside. Once outside, she called Cade with her mind. Within minutes, Cade landed by her. They conversed silently until Granny arrived with a few people from the village.
Ethan, the carpenter, walked up to Caelyn with a large bundle in his arms.
"This," he said, "is a saddle for Cade. I've been working on this for quite some time."
He fastened the straps around Cade and said, "A beautiful saddle for a beautiful dragon."
Cade looked at her master with a meaningful stare. Caelyn said, "She says, 'thank you and it's very beautiful.'"
"You're welcome, anything for our country's heroes!"
Next, Taylor, the cartographer, stepped forward. "This is the finest map in all of Clementia. It shows you war zones, villages, enemy territory, rivers, etc. I have a feeling that this will help you greatly in your journey."
Caelyn and Cade thanked him and he stepped back to join the onlookers.
Caelyn mounted Cade and glanced behind her dragon at the village that she had grown up in. As Cade lifted into the sky, she waved one last goodbye.
"You'll be back," the dragon mind spoke to her.
"How can you be so sure? We might die in a war or get killed by snipers or something."
"I promise that I'll bring you back, Caelyn. Besides, I think that Elohim has a much bigger plan than just death for you."
"Like what?" She sighed. "Sometimes it's just so hard to see what His plan is!" Caelyn said, gazing down at a small farm.
"Well, He's letting you meet Malachi and that's more than what most people get. He's letting you be trained by the best in the world so that you can go out into the world and have adventures that will be remembered forever. He's appointed you with a task that you and only you can bear. You might not know what His plan is, but I have a feeling that by the time we return to our village, you'll be singing his praises."
Changing the subject Caelyn, "I wonder what Malachi is like?"
They spent the rest of the day talking about many things dear to their hearts.
They traveled all day and just before twilight, they set down in a small clearing in the forest. Caelyn gathered firewood and Cade provided shelter with her wings. They ate some of the bread and fruits that Granny had packed for them. Caelyn was leaning against Cade's side and was beginning to feel sleepy. Cade wrapped her wing around her; Caelyn stretched out on her bedroll, and promptly fell asleep.
A rush of cold air roused her early the next morning. Cade had moved her wing to wake her. Caelyn spent a few minutes looking over their map to find where they needed to go. They broke camp and continued flying toward the capital. This routine became a habit after several days. However, as they were nearing the city, one night changed all that.
One night Caelyn was sitting with her back to Cade's side and was polishing her sword. Suddenly a stranger walked out of the bushes and began to walk toward the fire. Caelyn remained calm and sat perfectly still. She and her dragon were in the shadows of a large tree and she waited for the stranger to realize that there were two beings present. She didn't have to wait long.
The stranger sat across from them on the other side of the fire, and mind spoke to Caelyn. "I know who you are, but you do not know who I am."
Caelyn's bond had become so strong with Cade that the dragon had received the statement clearly.
Caelyn stood up with her sword in hand. She walked over to the stranger and stood before him. He rose and the black hood fell back to reveal his features. He was a human like her, but his hair was a deep brown. His eyes were two pools of blue hidden by the locks of hair that fell across them. His face reminded her of an elf. His face was stately, the bone structure pointed and beautiful, yet strong and graceful. Just like the rest of his body she thought as she quickly assessed the stranger. His right hand lay on the hilt of a sword and a quiver of bows were strapped across his back. Overall he appeared wise and handsome, but he looked no more than nineteen.
"Who are you? Answer wisely or lose your life. Not many people dare to stand in the presence of a dragon." She gripped her sword tighter and adopted a fighting stance.
He chuckled and bowed, "I am that which you seek. I am Malachi."
"If you were truly Malachi, then you would know this. At my birth, what was said over me?"
"A prophecy that foretold of your greatness. How you were destined to find a dragon, and save the land of Clementia. Your parents never doubted it for a second. They believed that you would do it."
Caelyn lowered her sword to let the point rest on the ground, "My parents?" Her parents were rarely mentioned at home with Granny. "You knew them?"
"Yes, they were extraordinarily gifted wizards and died nobly for their country. I only knew them for a brief time, but they treated me like a son."
"You truly are Malachi! Forgive me!" She bowed on one knee.
He took her free hand and pulled her to her feet. "There is no need for that. I would have acted in the same manner as you did. Come, let us sit with Cade and discuss the coming war."
"War?" Caelyn asked with a gulp.
"Yes, 'war' and you're going to play a big part in it! So we have a lot of training to do before you can fight with me and my troops."
They spent the night under Cade's wing and Caelyn found that he was quite handsome up close. At one point in their conversation, Caelyn was visibly shivering from the night air. Malachi took off his cloak and wrapped her in it. He then put his arm around her and pulled her close to him.
Just before she drifted off to sleep with her head on Malachi's chest, she thought, "This is going to be an interesting journey..."